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'Extremely dangerous' heat wave spreads across the east and west of the country

While several fires are being fought in California, state authorities in Oregon declared a state of emergency.

Fire in Santa Ynez, Calif.Cordon Press

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The dangerous heat wave that hit the east and west of the country this Friday will continue throughout the weekend.

The National Weather Service described it as intense and long-lasting, and warned that it will be "extremely dangerous and potentially deadly if not taken seriously."

Cities such as Redding, Calif., and Las Vegas could reach historically high temperatures through the weekend and into next week.

Therefore, authorities recalled the usual recommendations in the face of extreme heat: drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, use sunscreen and wear light, dull-colored clothing, and avoid exposure to the sun. It also stressed the importance of staying alert to local warnings and forecasts.

California fires

The battle of hundreds of firefighters to contain blazes in different parts of California marks the early start of an intense wildfire season.

Temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded Friday in California as the heat wave nears its peak.

In Mariposa County, near Yosemite National Park, the French Fire has devastated more than 405 hectares of vegetation since it broke out on Thursday. Authorities issued evacuation orders for nearly all of the community's 1,100 residents in the central part of the state. Weather conditions gave firefighters respite, so the flames have been 15% contained, and some residents managed to return to their homes.

Further north, a few miles from the capital Sacramento, the more than 2,000 firefighters battling the Thompson Fire managed to partially control the flames, which have consumed some 1,533 hectares of vegetation and forests in Oroville.

Although authorities withdrew the evacuation orders in some areas of Butte County, the warnings continue in force for a good part of the population. They even warned that the worst is yet to come.

California suffered about 20 years of drought, but the last two years were relatively wet, with high rainfall levels refilling reservoirs and allowing forests and grasslands to grow.

However, 2024 is shaping up to be a hot, dry year, and the flora is rapidly drying out, becoming fuel for wildfires.

Oregon braces for heat

"Both the record-breaking temperatures and the duration of heat present a clear and present danger, particularly for children, elders, people with disabilities, and people who work outside," Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek maintained in a statement picked up by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Kotek declared a state of emergency Friday and asked "Oregonians to take every precaution and check on your family and neighbors."

'Killer' weather

Extreme heat is one of the leading cause of weather-related death, according to the NWS. Each year it claims thousands of lives.

Although it can affect everyone, high temperatures are especially dangerous for older adults, pregnant women and patients suffering from chronic conditions.

Children are also especially vulnerable, so authorities caution parents to take special care. Among other recommendations, they ask that they be careful not to leave them inside the car or leave the doors open, to prevent them from getting inside. In fact, so far this year already, seven children under 8 years old have died from this cause.

They also stressed the importance of being attentive to symptoms of cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke, which the NWS details on its website.